Hypertension, Heart Disease Common Among Oldest Nursing Home Residents

Hypertension and heart disease are the two most common chronic health conditions among the nation’s oldest nursing home residents, afflicting more than half, on average, reveals a new study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) examining characteristics of the nation’s oldest old. 

The study splits older adults into three age groups: The young-old, between 65 and 74 years old; the middle-old, between 75 and 84; and the oldest old, aged 85 and older. 

Acknowledging the difficulty to assess the number of 85+ adults residing in various settings with specific needs, the researchers say that among the oldest old Medicare enrollees in 2007, about 15% lived in long-term care facilities while 7% resided in community housing with services, such as retirement or assisted living communities. Nearly eight in ten (78%) of the 85-and-older population live in private residences, says the CDC’s report, according to findings from federal data analysis.


“Increasingly, LTC for the oldest old is provided in a range of provider settings including the elder’s private residence, congregate housing, assisted living, and skilled nursing facilities among others,” the researchers say. 

As of 2010, there were more than 40 million Americans aged 65 and above. About 14% of them belonged in the “oldest old” category, and they represent one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population, projected to increase to 19 million by 2050. 

“Given the growing share of the oldest old in the U.S. population and their health care costs, it is important to have a better understanding of the special needs of this age group in order to plan accordingly for the future,” say the study’s authors. 

The number of “oldest old” nursing home residents has dropped nearly 11% to 674,500 between 1999 and 2004, but their proportion as a percentage of the overall nursing home population has remained roughly the same. Of the oldest old nursing home residents studied by the CDC, 82.1% were female, and 90.3% were white. 



Hypertension (55.1%) and heart disease (49.1%) were the two most common chronic health conditions among oldest old long-term care recipients across care settings, according to the report, while depression was a more commonly diagnosed condition among the oldest nursing home residents versus diabetes diagnoses among home health care and discharged hospice care patients. 

More than 90% of the oldest nursing home residents had common difficulty in daily living activities such as bathing and dressing. Not surprisingly, the older residents are, the more likely they are to need assistance with all five activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, transferring, toileting, and eating). 

Almost four in ten residents (36.6%) had transitioned into a nursing home from an acute care hospital, while 31.4% moved from assisted living or a hospital skilled nursing facility, and the remaining 29.3% moved from a private residence. 

While Medicare was the primary source of payment for most of the oldest old home health and discharged hospice care patients, it was the primary source for only 8.6% of 85-and-older nursing home residents. 

Access the Oldest Old Long-Term Care Recipients study

Written by Alyssa Gerace